Today I am going to blog about legal advertising and my love/hate relationship with it.
First, why do Syracuse NY area personal injury lawyers like us have to advertise at all?
The question is a fair one. After all, our law firm is, according not just to us, but to many of the best lawyers and judges in the area, one of the top personal injury law firms in all of Upstate New York. We have won many awards and recognitions for our outstanding results and performances in court. Judges and fellow lawyers sing our praises, as do former clients. So why do we have to advertise at all? Shouldn’t word of mouth bring us more cases than we can handle?
Unfortunately, the answer is “no”. That didn’t use to be the case. Back when I first started practicing personal injury law, our law firm – founded by George Michaels in Auburn, NY, and brought to personal-injury-law fame by his son Lee Michaels – did not need to advertise at all. Local lawyers sent us a steady stream of personal injury cases because they knew our results were the best in the area. Those lawyers didn’t handle personal injury claims themselves, so they steered their clients to the best personal injury lawyers they knew. It was flattering, and we didn’t have to spend a dime on advertising.
What happened? What changed? Why can’t we get by without advertising anymore?
What happened is that personal injury lawyers who, in our view, and in the view of most other lawyers and judges, were not nearly as good as us, starting spending millions of dollars on TV, radio and billboard ads. They bombarded the airwaves with easy-to-remember telephone numbers and jingles; ear worms boring into the public’s mind. When someone got injured, they no longer called their trusted “family” lawyer to ask where to get a good personal injury lawyer. Instead, they just dialed the phone number pre-bored into their brain. Our referring lawyers thus no longer had much to refer to us. No one was asking them which personal injury lawyer they should hire.
This turn of events forced us to start advertising. Our main source of work – referring attorneys – had dried up. It was an “if-you-can’t-beat-them-join-them” moment. Either we advertised or we perished. We chose the former.
Don’t get me wrong: We still rely quite a bit on referrals from other lawyers. We still get about half of our cases from them. And we get many other cases by “word of mouth” referral by former clients. I would guestimate that only about a fourth of our cases these days come from our ads.
Why do personal injury lawyers need to advertise whereas other types of lawyers don’t? The reason is that a personal injury victim is not a repeat client. Most people need a personal injury lawyer only once in their life, if at all. So personal injury lawyers do not build up a portfolio of clients who keep coming back to them. By contrast, litigators who represent corporations in court can sit on their laurels once they have built up a portfolio of a few dozen corporations. Those corporations regularly have litigation needs, and will supply their lawyers with a steady stream of work. A personal injury case, by contrast, is a “one-off” event for most people.
For the last year or so, we have not been on TV. We were instead spending most of our PR budget on google ads. But we are giving TV another go this fall. Check out one of our new ads here:
Do I like it? Not really. I would prefer not to have to advertise at all. But those days are long gone! So if you see our ad on TV, now you know why it is there. It’s not because we want it there. Blame those other big personal injury advertisers! And then hire us instead . . .
Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org I’d love to hear from you!
Syracuse NY Personal Injury Lawyers
Michaels & Smolak, P.C.